Replacing just 1 tire

I was always told that when you replace tires on your car you need to do it in pairs. Well right now 3 out of 4 tires on my car are in very very good condition while the third is in so so condition. I am considering replacing it, it is the front driver side tire. Is it okay to replace just 1 tire at a time?

What kind of car? How many miles on the ‘good’ tires? How old are the ‘good’ tires?

2002 Kia Sedona mini van. Bought van Aug of 2010 with present tires on them. 3 of them have very good tread and no significant wear. 4th tire has some wear but no balding spots. All four are totally different tires, I believe the used car lot I bought it from put them on.

OK, then I recommend you figure out how old each of the 3 ‘good’ tires are. You’ll need to decode the number on the side of each tire:

  1. Look for the Tire Identification Number branded on the sidewall of the tire to determine the tires age. The Tire Identification Number is preceded by DOT, which stands for Department of Transportation, and is 10 to 12 digits in length. You may have to check both sides of the tire to find the complete Tire Identification Number.

  2. Locate the last three or four digits of the Tire Identification Number. Previous to 2000, three digits determined the tire age. Tires made since 2000 use four numbers to determine a tires age.

3a. Since 2000 - Determine the year the tire was manufactured by decoding the last two digits. For example, if the last two digits are “07”, then the tire was manufactured in 2007. Determine the week the tire was manufactured by decoding the first two numbers that makeup the last four digits in the Tire Identification Number. For example, if the last four digits of the Tire Identification Number are 2807, then the tire was manufactured during the 28th week of 2007.


3b. Before 2000 - Determine the year the tire was manufactured by decoding the last digit of the Tire Identification Number. For example, if the last digit is “3”, then the tire was manufactured during the 3rd year of the decade. The problem with this system was that you could not determine during which decade the tire was made. Determine the week the tire was manufactured by decoding the first two numbers that makeup the last three digits in the Tire Identification Number. For example, if the last three digits of the Tire Identification Number are 403, then the tire was manufactured during the 40th week of 1993 (or 1983).

If any of the tires are 8 or more years old, I’d replace them. If younger, then try to find a new tire that matches the brand, model, and size of one of the 3 ‘good’ tires and mount them both on the same axle.

I assume they are all the same size, the size specified for the car?

Running four totally different tires, presumably with different traction characteristics, isn’t particularly safe. A reputable used car lot wouldn’t have done that, in my opinion.

You are already running three good tires and have had no handling problems, even with one not-so-good tire. Surely it is an improvement to upgrade that one tire. With a careful selection you’ll do just fine. Go right ahead and buy the one tire.

As for the concept of a ‘reputable used car lot,’ well, maybe I had better not touch that issue.

SteveF wrote:
As for the concept of a ‘reputable used car lot,’ well, maybe I had better not touch that issue.

I guess my real point is that a car lot that would do that probably wouldn’t be above jerry-rigging other things to get the car out the door.

Note: Most cars use four tyres. Ideally and under most situations, they all should be, about the same age, the same design and wear. Having mis-matched tyres can result in handling problems (think safety).

The following may not work with all cars. However I have found it usually is best for most cars.

The best tyres should be on the Back and should match (size, wear, age and design). I Mismatched tyres can result in handling problems. You want the best on the back so in the event of an emergency situation (when you most need control of your car) you don’t want the front tyres gripping better than the back resulting the back end slipping with the back end of the car ending up leading the way with you looking were you have been and not where you are going.

I have to go along with Steve on this one unless there are handling issues that haven’t been mentionde or the OP is in the snowbelt. It’s always preferable to have four mateched tires, or at least the two on the back match and the two on the front match, but if all four are good and the vehicle is running smooth and straight I’d want to get perhaps 50% of the tread off of them and then change them out.

Try to replace the worn one with a match for its opposing tire if possible.

If there’s any sign of an imbalance, definitely start shopping for replacements.

I picked up a screw in the right rear tire of the Chevrolet Uplander minivan that I used to own. I was on my way to an important meeting, so I had to buy a replacement tire that didn’t match the original tires. I thought about matching the left rear tire, but didn’t notice any handling problems, so I left things the way they were. I later needed new tires on the front, so I purchased a matching set for the front, but the tires were a different brand than were originally on the Uplander. I did drive on slippery roads during the winter and had no difficulty.

I think it is better to have matching tires. I sold the Uplander to my son. When he needed replacement tires, he put on all new Michelin tires.

I can safely say that outside of one car I bought almost new 12,000 miles on it, I have never owned a car where all four tires were the same. Almost always the fronts were the same and the back were the same but the front could be brand X and the back brand Y, it all just depended on when I was buying the tires and the best deals I could get. I have always bought in pairs, but like I said, in this case the 3 others are in such great shape that unless I buy 2 for the front I would then have the other one put on my spare which itself looks to be in very good shape, however since it’s under the car and tough to get out, not real sure overall it’s condition, just thankful it’s not a donut but a full size tire.

I have had no handling issues and the van drives fine, just the tire in question has less tred on it then the other three, using the coin test it is just less then the other 3. I will check tonight to see the makes of all four and report back tomorrow.

Good. Like I said, I’d just want to make sure they’re not too old, and they’re all the same/correct size.

Go for it.

The only time it seems to really matter is in really tough winter conditions and if one tire has way more traction than the other(s) it will pronounce itself. You may just take it as its really slippery.

The dumbest thing I did in college was have basically performance all-seasons that with very poor winter traction on the rear and bought winter tires for the front. The tire store warned me.

In what happened to be a record year for snow coupled to me driving in whatever conditions to get to the ski slopes(50 days that year). The cars tail would swish back/forth at speed on snow. Also stopping most of the time involved the tail coming around. My winter driving skills advanced very much that year…

The problem with odd tires is that vehicles tend to pivot around the odd tire under emergency conditions, such as panic stops and severe changes of direction - just when you want the vehicle to behave predictably. The only way to tell if you have a problem is to perform a series of these. You can’t tell by simply driving the car.

My recomendation would be to replace 2 tire and put them on the rear. It’s obvious you ought to replace the worn tire, but which other tire to replace? Your goal is to have the vehicle with as close to 4 identical tires as possible.

Then when the front tires wear out, replace those with the same as the rears.

As long as your vehicle doesn’t have AWD (all-wheel-drive), and you use the same size tire with a similar tread pattern, it should be OK. If possible, I’d buy the same brand and model of tire that’s on the passenger side. Some vehicles are more tolerant than others of this, depending on the suspension design and overall stability. If the car acts a little squirrely in the rain, you’ll know this was a bad idea.

You’ll hear a lot of debate about where the best pair of tires should go on a car, but I’ve felt for a long time that the best tires should go on the rear. While better tires on the front of a FWD vehicle may aid in traction and braking, good tires on the rear will add to overall stability and keep nasty surprises from happening, such as the rear sliding in bad road conditions.

@brm7675 - You mentioned the spare looks good. I’d take it down (yes, it’s a pain), check how old it is, and if it’s not too old (and if none of the other tires are too old), I’d swap it out with the worn tire, which I’d use as a spare. No purchase required right now. Then, in the future when you need to replace 2 or 4 of the tires, use the best of the worn tires for the spare.

I am going to take the spare down this sat, or try, I understand why it’s under the car, but really wish they would have come up with a better design, because getting to it is a pain.

I was also thinking take the spare and use it since the tire you’re thinking about replacing is apparently still good enough to use for a spare. You’ll likely only be using the spare for short periods of time if/when needed. The spare may last until the other 3 tires are worn out then you could replace all 4 and keep the best tire for your spare.

I also prefer to have 4 matching tires, but it’s not at all uncommon for me to have two different types of tires on my car, especially my daily driver, but I do try to run 2 tires that are alike on each axle.